Let’s talk about neighbours.

We all have them.

Some of them are in the apartment right beside us. Others neighbours are a little farther away. But wherever they are, they’re literally doing life right beside us. So how can we do life with our neighbours, instead of beside them? It can definitely feel a bit tricky these days with COVID-19 precautions – but I believe it’s still possible to create community this Christmas!

For me, creating community is something I’ve always felt passionate about. Growing up, I was never considered, “cool,” or “popular,” and often felt left out. I remember one day in elementary school, I was trying to talk to a group of girls, and they literally formed a circle and shoved me out of it. It wasn’t a good feeling, but I believe God used that moment in a profound way.

Though I was sad and hurt at the time, I also felt God open my eyes to other people like me who had been excluded, and I began to form amazing friendships with them. One of them was a Muslim girl who had been excluded because she wore a hijab. She and I became great friends, and I couldn’t believe that no one else knew how awesome she was. She and I, as well as another girl who had been excluded from the “popular” group formed an amazing little community of our own. We had so much fun at recess and lunch time! Though I was young, I began to recognize the importance of acceptance and belonging. Once we found community with each other, it didn’t matter that the “cool” kids didn’t like us. We just wanted to be accepted for who we were.

Over the last 5 years, Mark and I, along with our next door neighbours – who also are a part of FAC – have been incredibly intentional about building community in our neighbourhood. From first moving in and not knowing anyone to now regularly meeting out front with our coffees in hand, the community on our street is amazing! Even as I’ve been writing this blog post, I’ve received texts from 2 different neighbours and a Facebook message from another. It’s amazing to see God moving and opening doors (literally!) for our neighbourhood to get to know each other.

8 Ways to Create Community this Christmas

This Christmas is an awesome opportunity to start building connections. Here are just a few ideas to get you started …

  1. Create a Facebook group for your street. Invite neighbours to join the group by handing out flyers. Ring the doorbell, and if they answer, introduce yourself (from a COVID-safe distance) and get to know them! If not, leave the flyer, and keep going. We did this a few years ago, and it’s been a great tool for getting to know each other, inviting neighbours to things, asking if anyone has a cup of sugar, etc. Through our Facebook group, we actually discovered that another family that lives on our street goes to FAC! I recognized their names, sent them a message, and we were having coffee on the front lawn days later!
  2. Backyard FireHost a firepit. Depending on your comfort level with COVID-19 precautions, consider hosting a backyard get together with your neighbours. You can physically distance around a firepit or 2 (get your other neighbours involved!) This year, we’re hosting a Christmas firepit with 4 families from our street. We’ll play Christmas carols, drink hot chocolate, and maybe even roast chestnuts.
  3.  Do a Christmas cookie exchange. Again, depending on your comfort level, message some neighbours and ask them to each bake 1 type of Christmas cookie, and then trade! It’s a great way to connect (not to mention an easy way to end up with a yummy variety of treats for the holidays).
    Christmas cookies
  4. Invite neighbours to Christmas Eve at FAC! I often bake a bunch of mini cranberry orange loaves, wrap them up individually, attach a little Christmas Eve invite card to each one, and then deliver them door to door mid-December. With options to join Christmas Eve services in person and online this year at FAC, it’s easy for them to choose what works best for them!
  5. Pay attention for new neighbours moving in. Last December we had new neighbours move in next door, so we brought them a tin of cookies. This year, when we talked about doing a cookie exchange, she specifically asked for the cookies I made them last year! Watch for opportunities to welcome new people on your street – it’s easy to build community when you spark conversation from the very beginning!
    Building Community this Christmas
  6. Sit in front of your house instead of the back yard. (Yes, even in the winter!) Choosing to sit on your front steps or yard invites people to engage with you! If you have kids, they’ll naturally play with other kids nearby, so why not talk to the parents while they play? It’s a great way to get to know each other.
  7. Use your Facebook group to invite everyone skating! Plan a night that your street will all hit up the local rink together. Talk about a low-pressure way to have a COVID-safe Christmas get together! This would pair really well with the firepit idea … skating and then a fire? Yes please! Check out this list of public outdoor rinks in Calgary or this map of community rinks.
  8. Shovel your neighbours’ sidewalk … even if they don’t shovel yours. This is one of the best ways to selflessly serve your community. Be more about being the hands and feet of Jesus than being recognized for your efforts, and you may just bring a little hope to someone who’s struggling this season.

After you’ve met your neighbours a few times, seek ways to stay connected on social media or texting. This is such a great way to stay in touch, especially in the winter. Plus, it makes it a whole lot easier if you need to borrow a cup of flour or a shovel! Make checking-in with the people who live next door to you a regular part of your routine … it’s as simple as a “Hey, how’s it going?” text from time to time.

Remember, God has placed you on your street for such a time as this! Pay attention to what’s happening, and commit to being intentional. Ask God regularly to show you opportunities that you can be His ambassador in your community.

-Written by Rosalind Coben, Online Campus Associate, First Alliance Church

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